Public education has been the backbone of Iowa, which has long prided itself on excellence in education – K-12, community colleges and its Regents universities. The Republican-run state legislature has underfunded public education. K-12 needs it needs at least a 4% annual increase but has been getting only 1-1.5% per annum in recent years. After years of underfunding, a 5% increase would be appropriate because of additional burdens placed on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to compensate teachers and staff adequately.
Community colleges and our public universities must also be well-funded – the Regents universities in particular, our flagship institutions of higher learning, have been starved of public dollars in recent years. We have the tax dollars – we need look no further than the surplus our governor and Republican legislators have been touting. If we want Iowa to be a place where families come and stay and if we want all children to reach their potential, quality public education is a must.
The home rule movement, which culminated in the Home Rule Amendment to the Iowa Constitution in 1968, was a grassroots movement to claim for city residents the right to govern their own affairs through elected city councils.
The Home Rule Amendment states: “Municipal corporations are granted home rule power and authority, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly, to determine their local affairs and government, except that they shall not have power to levy any tax unless expressly authorized by the general assembly. The rule or proposition of law that a municipal corporation possesses and can exercise only those powers granted in express words is not a part of the law of this state.”
With monotonous regularity, Republicans in the State Legislature have taken it upon themselves to create laws that take aim at specific city ordinances that were legal when they were passed. Their goal: To reduce local control that is not in line with their narrow world view. We have seen similar approaches with respect to school boards – who are also locally elected officials with their finger on the pulse of the community they serve.
While Iowa has sat on its hands, producing only medical marijuana with inadequate THC strength, other states have forged ahead on legalization, both for medical marijuana and recreational use. It is long past time for Iowa to do it. Why should other states be reaping profits when we get none? Why should people be going to jail/prison (disproportionately people of color) for possession of relatively small amounts of a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol? Prohibition has proven costly and it’s a failed policy. We need to change course.
Throughout this pandemic, we have seen how hard public health professionals work, as well as the constraints under which they work and the limits of their reach. Their jobs have been made so much harder by the unnecessary and damaging injection of politics. Their job is prevention, education, and the creation of a healthier community for all residents. We need to recognize and support the incredibly important role of public health. This pandemic won’t be the last public health emergency – and there are smaller, significant tasks that they perform every day for the common good. They are an essential part of the backbone of our community.